US Goal: Get Countries Buying Iranian Oil ‘Down to Zero as Soon as Possible’

Iranian oil is about to be sanctioned by the US again. Oil Tanker. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy. Photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer

The United States withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal earlier this year means the re-imposition of American sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which will resume in part on August 6. In November, the most critical sanctions—on Iran’s energy and oil industry and banking—will re-launch. While the US is the only one of the world powers to step out of the Iran nuclear deal, so far they aren’t the only ones backing away from the Iranian economy.

50 international firms, including those in the energy and financial industries, have announced plans to exit the Iranian market, a US State Department official told reporters on Monday. And the Americans want everyone to join them. “With respect to the energy sanctions, our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales,” Brian Hook, US State Department director of policy planning, said in comments published by the Department.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week was already praising the impact of the US decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and restart sanctions.

“States and companies are abandoning the Iranian market and the mass demonstrations in Iran show that our efforts to put Iran in its place are bearing fruit,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office.

“…[US] President [Donald] Trump’s historic decision to quit the nuclear agreement is creating a strategic turnaround in Israel’s strategic situation. Iran is caught in an economic upheaval as a result of the re-imposition of the sanctions against it. The great flow of money into its coffers has come to a screeching halt.”

The Americans, meanwhile, are diligently working to bring more countries into efforts to pressure Iran to change its malicious activities. Hook told reporters on Monday that in the last month US senior officials have visited 13 countries in Europe and East Asia seeking to cooperate with the countries in pushing back against Iranian-sponsored terrorism and missile proliferation.

Hook said that the officials at each country “explain the full snapback of our sanctions and warn governments and the private sector of the risks of continuing to do business with Iran… We have been clear with countries and companies around the world that we are bringing severe economic pressure on Iran until the regime changes its destabilizing policies.”

Responding to a question about sanctioning US allies for business with Iran, Hook said that they “will not hesitate to take action when we see sanctionable activity,” while also noting they are ready to “work with countries” that are reducing their oil purchases from Iran.

So far, the Iranian economy is already taking hits. Hook said average Iranians are having difficulty affording basic foodstuffs such as bread and the Iranian currency—the rial—recently reached its all-time low point in trading against the dollar. On June 28, the rate was 85,000 rial to the dollar on the unofficial market. The US official said that “a lot” of the influx of cash that came to Iran through the nuclear deal has been spent on activities that have “destabilized the Middle East.”

While the US and the Iranian regime aren’t friends, Hook made it clear they seek a changed regime in Iran, not regime change: “It is about changing the behavior of the leadership in Iran to comport with what the Iranian people really want them to do.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, July 2, 2018)

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